United States Ambassador Timothy J. Roemer on Tuesday affirmed that India had the opportunity to gain direct access to Pakistan-born American terror operative David Coleman Headley and that it would be given “at an appropriate time.”
He was speaking to journalists on Tuesday after paying tributes at the 26/11 Police Memorial in Marine Drive here.
“We are working together in historic ways on providing access to people like Headley. The U.S. is cooperating at the highest levels of our government to eventually provide access to this person who helped pull off the savagery of this attack in Mumbai on 26/11. We have been providing indirect access and sharing intelligence for months and months and months about that acquired information and now the door is open. The opportunity is there for India to walk through it, in the weeks ahead, to get direct access [to Headley] in the appropriate way, at the appropriate time,” he said.
Terming the process “an unprecedented move to open the door” by the U.S. government, he said the act of cooperation underlined the significance of the India-U.S. relationship.
“And let me underscore that as a member of the 9/11 Commission when we sought access as Americans to Khalid Sheikh Mohammad, we couldn't get it.”
In the light of Secretary of State Hillary Clinton's tough message to Pakistan over the failed Times Square bombing, Mr. Roemer said, “Secretary Clinton made some comments I think in the last couple of days that underscored the importance of making sure that while Pakistan has done a lot to counter some of the terrorism that rose on their soil, they need to do even more to make sure that places like India and the United States are safe from the savagery of terrorist attacks.”
“The Secretary underscored the importance of Pakistan doing more. We also know it's very important that as Pakistan needs to do more, it's also, on the same hand, important to talk to one another. And for Pakistan and India [to talk] in their own pace, at their own rate, and in their own ways and scope to decide when they want to talk, how they want to talk and what they want to talk about to bring peace and prosperity to more and more people in India, Pakistan and this region.”
Asked about India's fears over U.S. military aid to Pakistan, Mr. Roemer said the U.S. Congress would continue to make sure that when weapons or arms were sold to a particular country for a particular purpose, it was both attended to and used in that manner. Congress would follow up on that, the Executive branch would follow up on that and make sure that Pakistan, when it was sold a particular weapon system, used that in the appropriate way.
Mr. Roemer stressed Indian cooperation in the fight against terror. “India is one of the most important allies in the world, an indispensable ally to the U.S., where we work in unprecedented and historic ways, sharing information, improving our capabilities to counter another terrorist attack, working in places globally like Afghanistan where are interests are common in a stable and prosperous and eventually independent Afghanistan.”
Earlier, he visited Asia's largest slum Dharavi in Mumbai. “It has a lot of people living below the poverty line. You can see why it's important to be able to stress [on] security and an economy that will be inclusive in its growth to bring more and more people into positions of opportunity and [give] access to education and safe drinking water,” he said.
This was Mr. Roemer's third visit to Mumbai. At the memorial, he laid a wreath to pay his respect to “the police officers who gave their lives for this country [during 26/11],” and to the sacrifice of their families.
Mr. Roemer said that on his first visit to Mumbai, he stayed at “the historic and iconic Taj hotel,” which was another testimony of “America's support, respect and constant work with India.
On Wednesday, he will visit the Germany Bakery blast site in Pune.